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World shares fall as Hong Kong, US-China tensions weigh

US and Chinese officials have been trading harsh rhetoric recently on everything from Hong Kong to the response to the coronavirus outbreak.

May 29, 2020 / 04:12 PM IST

Shares fell Friday in Europe and Asia as investors awaited a news conference about China by President Donald Trump later in the day. Benchmarks slipped in Paris, Frankfurt and Tokyo but rose in Shanghai.

US and Chinese officials have been trading harsh rhetoric recently on everything from Hong Kong to the response to the coronavirus outbreak.

One fear is that further friction could lead to another punishing round of escalating tariffs between the two countries that would hit the global economy when it's already in a severe recession due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The world awaits Trump's news conference tonight and the market is reacting, although there is absolutely no panic at all and it's about pre-positioning," Chris Weston of Pepperstone said in a commentary.

China's National People's Congress on Thursday approved a national security law aimed at suppressing secessionist and subversive activity in Hong Kong, overriding any potential opposition by local lawmakers.


US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said the law means Washington may no longer treat the former British colony, already reeling from anti-government protests and the pandemic, as autonomous from Beijing. That could undermine the city's status as a major center for trade and finance.

Germany's DAX lost 1.4 percent to 11,616.15 and the CAC 40 in France slipped 1.2 percent to 4,712.27. Britain's FTSE 100 gave up 1.1 percent to 6,149.44. US markets were poised for losses, with the future contract for the S&P 500 0.6 percent lower and the future for the Dow industrials down 0.7 percent.

Weak economic data from Japan also cast a pall, as the government reported that industrial production fell more than 9 percent in April from the month before, while retail sales dropped nearly 10 percent, month-on-month. That was the biggest fall since a sales tax hike in 1997.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index dropped 0.7 percent to 22,961.47, while Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 0.2 percent to 21,877.89. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 skidded 1.6 percent to 5,755.70.

The Kospi in South Korea added 0.1 percent to 2,029.60, while the Shanghai edged 0.2 percent higher to 2,852.35.

Overnight, the S&P 500 ended the day 0.2 percent lower at 3,029.73. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.6 percent to 25,400.64 and the Nasdaq composite fell 0.5 percent, to 9,368.99.

Even with Thursday's loss, the S&P 500 is still on pace for its third weekly gain of at least 2.5 percent in the last four weeks. Following their breathtaking drop of nearly 34 percent in February and much of March, stocks began recovering after the Federal Reserve and Capitol Hill pledged unprecedented amounts of aid for the economy.

More recently, the market has pushed higher as investors move into stocks that would benefit most from a reopening economy. Governments around the country and around the world are slowly lifting restrictions meant to corral the outbreak, which has investors hoping the worst of the recession has already passed, or will soon.

Some analysts warn the rally has been overdone could be setting investors up for disappointment in the future if economies take much longer to recover than hoped for.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 0.66 percent from 0.70 percent late Thursday. It tends to reflect sentiment about the economy's strength and inflation.

A barrel of US crude oil for delivery in July lost $1.07 to $32.64 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose 90 cents to settle at $33.71 on Thursday.

Brent crude, the international standard, gave up 86 cents to $35.17 per barrel. It rose 55 cents to $35.29 per barrel in London.

The dollar bought 107.25 Japanese yen, down from 107.64 yen late Thursday. The euro rose to $1.1115 from $1.1073.
first published: May 29, 2020 04:05 pm
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